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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  March 31, 2011 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: government troops and rebels fought a pitched battle for control of a key oil town in libya. and moammar qaddafi issued a defiant statement after two of his key advisors resigned. good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, we have the latest on the fighting, the defections and what c.i.a. teams are doing now on the ground in libya. >> brown: then, will the budget showdown in congress result in a government shutdown? we ask senator benjamin cardin, democrat of maryland and indiana republican representative mike pence. >> woodruff: spencer michels looks at the science behind tsunamis and whether japan's crisis is a wake-up call for the united states.
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>> government scientists here in seattle say their tsunami warning systems saved a lot of lives but they're not sure what would happen if the big one hits the pacific northwest. >> brown: and margaret warner updates the political chaos and escalating violence in the african nation of ivory coast. that all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> you can't manufacture pride, but pride builds great cars. and you'll find it in the people at toyota, all across america. >> auto companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small businesses, communities, equipment, materials.
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>> that money could make a big difference to a lot of people. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: rebels in libya
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suffered setbacks for the third day in a row. and loyalists to colonel moammar qaddafi recaptured more territory along the coast. geraint vincent of independent television news reports from the scene of the battle for the oil town of brega. >> reporter: just behind their front line, the rebels fire their missiles. nothing boosts their morale quite like a rocket launcher. at the actual front, it's breakfast for the brave or the foolhardy. ahead of them is a no-man's land. the road outside brega has become a firing range for the much more powerful government artillery. but these fighters are driving straight into it. within just a few minutes, qaddafi's big guns open up. suddenly, the rebel trucks are screaming back across the desert, the drivers with their
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feet on the floor, and the gunners firing futile shots at an enemy they can't see. in an army with no command structure, the fall back is followed by arguments about why the attack failed and we see a demonstration of how ill- discipline in these ranks could be fatal. on the road, the trucks are still racing back, and the rockets are now covering the retreat. well, the rebels are responding to the government's artillery with their rockets, and on the assumption that those rocket batteries will then be targeted by the pro-qaddafi artillery, we're moving back every time they're fired. there's more panic, more chaos, and it's time to move again.
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we've defeated soldiers who will live to fight another day. although in this part of the desert, it is far from clear how many days this revolution has left. >> brown: libya's leader lost yet another member of his inner circle today. former foreign minister and former president of the u.n. general assembly ali abdes- salam treki announced his departure on several web sites saying it was his nation's right to live in freedom. for his part, qaddafi issued a defiant statement accusing western leaders of fomenting war between christians and muslims. this all comes after the defection of the current foreign minister yesterday. just weeks ago moussa kusa, libya's foreign minister, stood in front of the media as the representative of his nation's government. but last night, kusa, a longtime confidante of moammar qaddafi flew secretly to london and became the highest-profile libyan defector to date. kusa reportedly stepped down over the, quote, "spilling of
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blood" by government forces, but the libyan government spokesman moussa ibrahim offered a different reason. >> the information we have is that he's tired, he's exhausted and he resigned, that's it. when something happens we will talk about it. >> brown: qaddafi's former spy chief has long been suspected of being involved in the 1988 bombing of pan am flight 103 over lockerbie, scotland that killed more than 250 people. the regime's opponents also blame him for numerous assassinations of libyan dissidents in exile. british officials said kusa is now being debriefed. and they insisted he has not received immunity from any potential british or international charges. britain's foreign secretary william hague said kusa's defection has put increased pressure on the libyan leader. >> his resignation shows that qaddafi's regime, which has already seen significant defections to the opposition, is fragmented, under pressure and
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crumbling from within. qaddafi must be asking himself, "who will be the next to abandon him?" >> brown: that was the official response in washington today, as well as defense secretary robert gates called kusa's defection an encouraging sign. gates and admiral mike mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff appeared before congress to discuss the u.s. involvement in libya. one new development: reports quoting u.s. officials that cia teams are now operating in rebel-hel today, gates declined to comment on any c.i.a. activity, but did respond to questions about the president's promise of no american military forces, so- called "boots on the ground." >> are there any boots on the ground? >> not that i'm aware of? >> so we're saying we're not going to put any boots on the ground but neither have our allies? >> that's my understanding and the opposition has said they don't want any.
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>> so is there any time on the future that there might be allies boots on ground in libya? >> not as long as i'm in this job. >> brown: questions about the strength libyan rebel forces came up as well and secretary gates acknowledged that the opposition appeared to have no coherent leadership. he was asked whether terrorist groups were likely to use that situation to their advantage. >> if we're not dealing with cohesive group, are you concerned al queda will take advantage of leadership vacuum? >> i think that in libya that would be very unlikely. >> brown: gates did suggest though that the rebels could benefit from outside help. >> what opposition needs as much
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as anything is training, command and control and some organization. it's pretty much a pick-up ball game at this point. many countries can provide assistance. >> brown: for his part, admiral mullen said that coalition strikes have taken a toll on qaddafi's forces, but not necessarily a fatal one. >> we have degraded his military capabilities, attired forces to 20% to 25% level. that doesn't mean he's about to break from a military standpoint because that's not the case.
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>> brown: many at the hearing wanted to know how long the military action might last and when and whether the policy goal of removing qaddafi from power could be achieved. again, secretary gates: >> i think that one thing that may make a difference in how long it takes for this regime to change is how we continue to degrade his military capabilities and i think that could contribute to the cracking of his own military. the bottom line is no one can predict how long it will take. for that to happen i can tell you military mission in our now support role will remain limited as i've described it. >> brown: this morning, nato took control of that mission-- now called operation unified protector. and for more we turn to two former intelligence officials with experience in this part of the world. luis rueda retired from the
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c.i.a. last year after a 28-year career, spent mostly as an agent and station chief in the field, including in the middle east. paul pillar served in a variety of intelligence analysis and management positions throughout his time with the agency, including as a part of the team that negotiated with the libyans over disbanding their nuclear program. he's now on the faculty at georgetown university. welcome to both of you. paul pillar, let's start but. how valuable are these defections, particularly that of moussa kusa? >> quite valuable. and kusa was in the upper echelons of the foreign affairs and national security apparatus of libya for oh, almost 30 years. he was head of the external security organization, which is basically libya's intelligence service for some 15 years, before he became foreign minister. and i think it's fair to say he was qaddafi's top security guy for much of the last couple decades. >> brown: filling the picture a bit more though, we
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mentioned the reported ties to lockerbie and the more recent efforts to sort of bring libya back, i guess, and to talk about nuclear holdings, including that you were involved in. so fill in that picture, how does that play interest it? >> kusa was our are, my interlocular, going back to '99 after the pan am suspects were surrendered, which was the object of the sanctions against libya. at that point the libyans came to us and said let's talk. we have shared concerns with regard to islamic extremist terrorists, and so in the last couple of years of the clinton administration secret talks were initiated. and moussa kusa in his capacity as external security organization chief was our principle contact. >> brown: what was he like, and in particular do you have any hints as to why he would have acted as he did now? >> moussa kusa is a suave, polished, smart, official who
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would fit in quite nicely as an ambassador or minister for a western government. and this is not somebody who comes across like a revolutionary. and i can't help but think that he feels more comfortable in the west right now. >> brown: do you have a comment on the importance of these defections? >> i think it's critically important, because moussa kusa as paul said has had contacts and access to the highest levels of the libyan regime for decades. this is a man who can tell us where the fishers are, who supports qaddafi, who doesn't support qaddafi, help us reach out to individuals who may be willing to oust qaddafi. >> brown: at the same time the british have to say right away they're not giving him any particular immunity, though there is all that past. how do you weigh that into seeking information but not forgeting what he did in the past? >> that's a hard thing for the british to negotiate. if i were moussa kusa the first thing i would ask for is immunity, and that's one of the things he's very concerned about. it's up to the coalition to decide how important is his cooperation, whether they can
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get cooperation from him without giving him immunity, or whether that's part of the price we have to pay to remove qaddafi. >> brown: now let's turn to the reports of c.i.a. personnel on the ground. what would they be doing, what are they doing there? >> i think they would have two basic overarching missions, the first would be to collect intelligence on the opposition, who they are, when their goals are, their plans, their capabilities, and to assess their military capability or lack there of, what do they need to become effective against qaddafi. the other thing would be if deemed appropriate by the administration, is provide command and control, training, communication for the opposition, which are things they readily lack and need. and also targeting information for the coalition. >> brown: does that sound generally right? are there analogies when you look to when you think about what happens on the ground in a moment like this? >> let me just mention the collection of information is probably our biggest information need right now is who are these rebels.
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who are the opposition? and one has to worry about the extent to which the very islamic extremists about whom moussa kusa and i were talking 12 years ago may be part of that. so i think that's probably at the top of the list of priorities with regard to collection of information. >> brown: when you do that, how do you do that? how do you literally make the contacts, get inside, and figure out who you can trust and who not? >> well, in a situation like that where they're at war and people, the simple thing is knocking on the door and saying hi, we're with the c.i.a., we're with the u.s. government. it becomes a lee liaison relationship. it hard to disguise the fact that you have americans on the ground asking questions, you can't get around that issue. so you provide a service to them, look, we're here to assess, to train, we're here to open the channels of communications, and then your officers on the ground start to assess the individuals, they collect the information, who they are, what their paths are, we run traces on them. hopefully they recruit
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individuals who cooperate and say look here's what i understand, here's what's happening, that's how you start the ball rolling. >> brown: what if the president's sort of helped clear something up. the president says and we heard secretary gates say again, no boots on the ground. and yet we hear c.i.a. on the ground. now, what is the distinction? are they not considered boots? >> well, they probably don't wear boots. but when the secretary of defense is being questioned by members of congress and that phrase is used, i would interpret it as i assume secretary gates interpreted it, that is to say military personnel. no special operations. >> brown: is that within the community or within the military? i think the public understands the difference? >> i don't know what the public understands, but i think it's a significant difference from the standpoint of defining what our policy and posture is. >> it is one of the roles the c.i.a. plays. you put uniformed military personnel in a country and that has diplomatic and legal repercussions. it's a military action. where as you insert c.i.a.
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officers and despite the fact that it's been now made public, there's the ability to operate without there being an overt or obvious u.s. hand. so i agree that when secretary gates says boots on the ground he means uniformed military personnel. but what we have is potentially a handful of people that could be denied. >> brown: once they're there, does that necessarily help lead toward military involvement? or can they just stay there, again, as we heard from secretary gates, to provide some kind of support short of arming and military involvement? >> well, that was one of the things that covert action that the c.i.a. theoretically provides, it's a gap between a harshly worded demarch and military invasion. we can sustain that operation as long as there is a viable opposition, without the insertion of u.s. troops. the goal is not to have the c. i. a. personnel, the u.s. take
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over. what it is, is an effort to provide support and give them the things they need so they can do the job themselves. >> brown: give them the things they need short of arms, according to secretary gates. >> that's where it seems to lie. but if it did come to more direct u.s. military involvement, clearly the intelligence resources there would play a major role in assisting that kind of mission. the analogy there would be afghanistan, 2001, in which c.i.a. people were first in, they were ready, and then when we intervened militarily that that had a junior part in supporting the military effort. >> brown: is that a fair analogy? every situation is different of course. >> it is, but it is something that the c.i.a. does very well, and it is the lean, fast, very flexible capability to go inside and prepare and be ready for any option, whether that option is to continue providing communications or guidance or whatever support, or pave the way for additional military involvement.
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>> brown: ask briefly, as you said, this depends on having a viable group they can work with. >> yes, and that's the most important thing for this administration to understand is what they're dealing with. >> brown: thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": crafting a budget deal; learning from the tsunami and fighting for control of ivory coast. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: radioactivity in groundwater beneath a damaged nuclear power plant in japan has measured 10,000 times the standard level. that's according to officials with the company that operates the fukushima dai-ichi facility. but they do not believe it has contaminated the drinking water supply. meanwhile, the japanese government is looking into new data from the u.n.'s nuclear agency to determine whether to expand the current evacuation zone around the plant. >> ( translated ): regarding reports from the i.a.e.a. that radiation from the soil exceeds safe limits, we believe that this would only be harmful to
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health if you were exposed to it for long periods of time. so we are going to increase our monitoring to see if there is the possibility of protracted high levels of radiation in the area, and it is necessary to make thorough analysis of this and take relevant measures on the basis of this monitoring. >> sreenivasan: in the wake of japan's nuclear problems, the u.s. nuclear regulatory commission is conducting a more intensive review of three u.s. nuclear plants. the plants are in south carolina, kansas and nebraska and have had problems with safety systems or unplanned shutdowns. but the regulator's chairman stressed all american facilities are operating inside safety guidelines. at least a dozen people died in pakistan today when a suicide bomber hit a convoy carrying a prominent hardline islamist party leader. the blast went off in the northwest town of charsadda, and wounded at least 20 people. the explosion damaged several shops and a police truck. but the politician escaped unharmed. it was the second attack to target him in as many days. in new orleans today, two former police officers were sentenced
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for their roles in the shooting death of an unarmed man in the aftermath of hurricane katrina. david warren was sentenced to 25 years, and gregory mcrae received a 17-year sentence. warren shot henry glover outside a new orleans strip mall, and mcrae later burned a car with glover's body in it. the two men are among 20 officers charged last year with crimes committed in the storm's aftermath. ireland's banks need an extra $34 billion to survive the financial crisis. that was determined after independent banking experts and the irish central bank put four banks through stress tests. and it brings the total bailout to nearly $100 billion. we have a report from faisal islam of independent television news. >> banks will be americaned, shut and shrunk, leaving just two remaining financial groups. bank of ireland and allied irish banks. the extra black hole came about after another set of stress tests for the health of
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the irish financial system run by the central bank governor. it revealed likely future losses of tens of billions of euros, that money likely to come from an already cash strapped irish state. >> analysts will make their own calculations and i suppose the indications will be, though i don't preclude anything, but the indications would be that this gain of capital we would see a majority state ownership in all of them. >> reporter: today's stress tests are intended to drew a line under market fears of the deeply distressed housing markets. it seem two dimensional, falls in-house prices of nearly 40% and counting sprin why. but it was the commercial property bust that caused the first round of bank collapses, the notorious anglo irish bank, which today announced a 15 billion annual loss. what should have been a bank problem is now the burden of all of ireland's taxpayers. so are there any other ways to cut the final bill? ireland's banks will sell some
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assets, but that may not raise much money. the new government has talked up hitting the financiers, the bond holders that lend money to the banks, but shied away from it today. the governor was hoping for more medium term help from the european central bank, though that didn't materialize either. tonight we know the true size of ireland's banking black home. but the long-term solution to pay for and it to end the euro crisis is still up in the air. >> sreenivasan: anglo irish-- another bank that was not part stocks on wall street ended the day mixed, as the price of oil jumped to a 30-month high. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 31 points to close above 12,319. the nasdaq rose four points to close at 2,781. oil climbed higher amid concerns over libya closing above $106 a barrel. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: to politics and some possible movement on capitol hill that might avert a government shutdown.
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the months-long battle over spending cuts appeared to edge closer to a resolution today as the white house announced that house republicans and senate democrats were moving toward compromise. the potential deal would reportedly trim $33 billion from current spending levels. senate majority leader harry reid said now the two sides have to figure out how to get there. >> this isn't just about dollars and deficits. it's about principles and priorities. what we cut is much more important than how much we cut. we'll continue talking and continue working to find a middle ground. i hope an agreement can be reached. but it will not come on the backs of middle-class families and the jobs they need. and it will not come if the other side continues to insist on unreasonable and unrealistic cuts.
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>> woodruff: after meeting with house and senate leaders on capitol hill wednesday night, vice president biden said both sides were, quote, "working off the same number now." but at a thursday morning news conference, house speaker john boehner said such talk was premature. >> there is no agreement on numbers. nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. we control one-half of one-third of the government here, but we're going to continue to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get and to keep the government open and funded for the balance of this fiscal year. >> woodruff: tea party activists are demanding that republicans stick to their campaign pledge to cut $100 billion from president obama's 2011 budget request, which congress never passed. house republicans approved a measure last month that would reduce spending from current levels by $61 billion.
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the administration and senate democrats are touting the tentative agreement with $33 billion in cuts as meeting republicans half way. at a mid-day rally on capitol hill, hundreds of tea party supporters joined a half-dozen republican lawmakers to voice opposition to any compromise. >> the tea party is asking the house of reps to fulfill the promise that they made to us before the elections. >> well, you have got to start somewhere. and you know, it's a drop in the bucket when you think of all the money that's wasted in d.c. and all this money that goes down the drain? >> woodruff: minnesota congresswoman michele bachmann, who chairs the house tea party caucus, told the crowd to keep up the fight. >> they're afraid of you because you're powerful. so, i'm here to give you a message-- stay courageous-- and i know you will.
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don't back down and i know you won't. we will stand for cutting the size of government. we won't change our principles. >> woodruff: some republicans are also demanding that certain policy provisions inserted into the original house bill be preserved. among them: defunding planned parenthood and blocking the government from implementing greenhouse gas regulations. at the white house today, press secretary jay carney said those should not be part of the current debate. >> this is not the appropriate vehicle on which to stack a lot of contentious, ideological, politicized issues that will derail process. we need a deal, the american >> woodruff: lawmakers must pass an agreement by april 8, when
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the current spending stopgap expires, in order to avert a potential government shutdown. i spoke a short time ago with democratic senator benjamin cardin of maryland and republican congressman mike pence of indiana. senator cardin, representive pence, good to have you both with us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: let me start with you, congressman pence. we have vice president biden saying both side have made progress, they're aiming for 33 billion in cuts. on oh other hand, speaker boehner is saying there hasn't been agreement on anything. which is it? what's your understanding? >> it feels a little like the old parlor game in washington d.c. where one side leaks a number to the press, in the hopes it will be a self fulfilling prophecy. but look, it's good news that discussions are under way. but it's also good news that house republicans are determined to take a stand for fiscal discipline, keep our word to the american people, and do what we said we'd do,
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which is that we would take spending levels down to prestimulus prebailout levels. that will require $61 billion in budget cuts. we also passed provisions to defund obama care and defund planned parenthood. we're fighting for those provisions and we're going to continue to fight for them right up to april 8. >> woodruff: senator cardin, what's your understanding of what's really going on here? >> well, i think there's some good faith negotiations taking place. it's not going to be what the republicans want, it's not going to be what the president or the democrats want, that's what a compromise is about. but at the end of the day this budget can only pass if democrats and republicans are willing to work together and pass it. quite frankly, i think the challenge is going to be in the house as to whether speaker boehner can move a bill that may not enjoy the support of the members of the tea party. and they're not writing it, it's going to be a legislative process that's going to come up with a compromise. remember, we're dealing with
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12% of the federal budget. i hope that we can come together on this year's budget, and then let's work together and get a credible plan that reduces our federal deficit. you can't do it on the domestic spending side alone. we have to broaden the discussion. >> woodruff: representive pence, i heard you use the number 61 billion again, or a moment ago. and the tea party folks, they were protesting in washington today, demonstrating. they're saying no compromise. is that your position? is that the position of the republicans in the house? that all the give has to come from democrats? >> well, we think $61 billion was a compromise. we had an unprecedentedly open process for a resolution of this nature. we had i think more than 90 hours of debate. many amendments passed on a bipartisan basis. and i gotta tell you, i was at that tea party rally today, judy, and i want to agree with something the senator just said and that is we have some big issues to take on.
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we got to debate budget process reform and debate a debt ceiling. we've got to create a budget in this congress. we didn't do one last time. we got to do one that takes on entitlement reform. but i think it's absolutely imperative that we take this important, modest first step toward restoring some fiscal discipline in this process, and republicans keeping the word, keeping their word to the american people i think is an important and vital first step. there may be details, there may be room for negotiation. but the overall number and the key policy elements, defunding obama care, defunding abortion providers, like planned parenthood, republicans will keep fighting and fighting hard. >> woodruff: so senator cardin, you hear mr. pence and others in his party saying they have done their giving, and the rest of it is basically got to come from the democrats. >> well, it a bi --
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legislature, it's not just the house. it's the house and senate. we're all going to have to give. but it's not going to be one side dictating what's going to happen. we have some strong views about what was in the house passed bill. that bill to us was extreme. it would have jeopardized our recovery, and it contained a lot of policy riders that had no business at all in the budget bill. so there's a lot that we feel very strongly about, and we're going to fight on the principles to make sure we do what's right for not only fiscal responsibility but for america's future. but for the sake of the process, we've got to come together. you can make all the statements you want, but at the end of the day knits the interest of the american people that the democrats and republicans come together, and that's what we're trying to do. but look, if the house republicans take the position that it's only what the tea party wants, it's going to be a tough battle. >> woodruff: is that what the house republicans are saying, congressman?
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>> we're taking a stand for the american people. and when you've got a $1.65 trillion deficit, $61 billion in budget cuts is hardly extreme. it represents, i don't know if it's a down payment, it might just be earnest money on fiscal discipline. but we're going to dig in and fight for these things. and the so-called policy writers that are controversial, i guess that funding planned parenthood in this resolution is not a policy rider, but defunding planned parenthood is a policy rider. look, we're going to hash these things out. but we're going to fight for what we believe the american people want us to do and is is defend the treasury, defend their values and future generations. >> woodruff: let me ask you about that policy rider, policy from vision, defunding health care reform. are those really germane to the budget bill? >> sure, they're spending, of course they are. to say that defunding obama care or defunding planned
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parenthood is not germane to a spending bill, you may as well say that funding obama care and funding planned parenthood, as we do to the tune of about d 350 million, is not germane. look, all spending decisions are policy decisions. the senator knows that. everybody knows that. i appreciate the rhetorical justing over policy riders and that. but this is all about spending and it's all about policy. >> woodruff: senator cardin, what about that? i'm hearing a different tune from each of you on this. >> we have legislative committees that have jurisdiction over these areas. i thought that the republican leadership in the house believed in regular order. regular order allows these matters to go to the committees of jurisdiction to debate these issues. let's talk about it, let have an opportunity to offer amendments on these subjects, let work between the house and senate and let's talk about the policy direction of america. but right now we need to complete this year's budget. it started october 1 last year,
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it ends september 30. we're committed to making sure we get that budget done. and let's get that done and leave these policy issues for the debate as it should be, in the committees doing regular order. >> woodruff: representive pence, if it comes to this or government shutdown, what is your position? >> well, look, if liberals in the senate want to play politics and should the government down instead of embracing what are very modest budget cuts in this fiscal year, then i say shut it down. the american people know we're facing a fiscal crisis of unprecedented proportions. and while 61 billion is almost a rounding error in that fiscal crisis, i think it's an important first step. i think this is a defining moment. i think house republicans understand that. we're going to stand with the american people and fight to make this down payment on fiscal discipline. >> woodruff: senator cardin,
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last word. >> democrats are prepared to negotiate in good faith. we're not prepared to give up the rights of the united states senate for the rights of the american people. we'll negotiate, we'll make compromises. but we're not going to just say that whatever the house or republicans want it's going to become the law of the land. >> woodruff: a shutdown? >> we'll do everything we can to avoid a shutdown. shutdown makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, we need to avoid it. >> woodruff: gentlemen, we're going to leave it there, but we'll watch this closely in the hours and days to come. thank you both. >> thank you, judy. >> brown: recent events in japan have, of course, sparked new concerns and warnings about the safety of cities, buildings, and nuclear plants in this country. one focus: the risks of a tsunami along the west coast. "newshour" correspondent spencer michels reports. >> reporter: the tsunami that devastated japan has raised new fears in the united states that a powerful earthquake-triggered
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wave could wreak havoc in north america as well. and in fact, those fears are well-grounded, according to eddie bernard who ran the government's tsunami research center for decades, and is still active. even he was astounded by what he learned-- that once ashore, the tsunami reached a height of 130 feet above sea level. >> never have i seen anything this widespread. i mean, the amount of debris, meters deep, bodies buried within all this stuff, i never expected to see anything of this massive magnitude. so i think this is a very big wakeup call for the united states, because we have a seismic geological feature off our coast. >> reporter: that geological feature runs from vancouver island, to northern california; it's called the cascadia fault or subduction zone, where a collision of large rigid plates in the earth's surface caused a
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huge earthquake in 1700 and scientists say it is due to happen again. gary griggs director of the institute of marine sciences at the university of california at santa cruz has studied subduction zones. >> one of those plates is diving down beneath the continent and as it goes down, it's actually dragging on the overlying layer. it's actually hung up, it's stuck. every 100 or 200 years, that'll break loose. and what typically happens is the upper layer will sort of rebound. it'll bounce back up and that displaces a huge amount of water. and that happens all around the pacific intermittently. if the quake happened close to shore, the tsunami would arrive very quickly, as it did in japan and cause enormous devastation. >> reporter: 10% of the damage was caused by the earthquake. but the tsunami that followed did 90% of the damage, and killed 99% of the people.
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>> reporter: but a close-in tsunami is not the only threat worrying scientists. in santa cruz, california, the japanese tsunami was felt when a five or six foot wave roared into the harbor, sunk 20 boats damaged a hundred, and broke docks, nearly 6,000 miles from japan. and that underscored another threat that concerns scientists- - tsunamis that happen thousands of miles away. rick wilson, a geologist for california's department of conservation, says it could have been much worse. >> in this area right here, we could, in a worst case scenario, we could expect waves up to 30- feet high. and that would flood this entire valley right here. >> reporter: and what makes you think a 30-foot wave is possible here and all that damage? >> we simulate these tsunamis coming across the pacific and
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striking california's coast. and from those scenarios we're able to say, yes, a 30-foot wave could be possible here. >> reporter: wilson and colleagues including oceanographer bruce jaffee met in a restaurant at the harbor to go over damage reports and analyze what happened. jaffe is with the u.s. geological survey and watched with intense, personal interest the japanese tsunami. >> i was not able to sleep that entire night. i felt it was my duty as a scientist to track what was going on and let people know as much as possible, what i thought the risks were. i think the message is that we >> reporter: jaffe says that since the indonesia tsunami of 2004, the number of tsunami researchers has more than doubled. looking at geological deposits, they can trace historically the
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intensity and damage of past tsunamis and while they haven't figured out how to prevent the big waves-- and may never-- they have figured out how to predict where the waves will travel, and with what intensity and speed once an earthquake occurs. on the day of the japanese quake, scientists were able to warn people in hawaii of impending danger. >> we zero in on one community on the island of maui, we can see that the forecast for this island seven hours before it struck the island was for some small flooding and some very strong currents in this harbor. >> reporter: such scientific calculations are valuable says longtime tsunami researcher gary griggs. he's looking into the recent tsunami. >> we were out here within 15 minutes or so knowing the height of those waves, and what the topography of the land is, we have some idea about which areas will be inundated or flooded. so i think that's significant
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progress. it isn't a mystery any more. >> reporter: here at the tsunami research center in seattle, they're trying to use what they've learned scientifically to lessen the impact of tsunamis. and buoys like this are a key part of that effort. for 25 years, they've been designing and re-designing these floating platforms toward a simple end: to detect a tsunami by measuring changes in water pressure on the ocean floor, near a large earthquake. getting the signal from the sensor up to the buoy was a major challenge, says chris meinig, engineering director of the lab-- part of the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. >> there's no wire connecting this. it sends the signals acoustically from the bottom pressure gauge, up through the buoy in upwards of seven kilometers of water depth. then the buoy sends a signal to a satellite, which relays the alarm to a tsunami warning
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center-- part of the weather service. >> reporter: when the recent quake struck, meinig says, the data from the buoys was vital across the ocean. >> what we were able to do the first time is really ingest mega earthquake data that we're measuring the ocean from the tsunami wave into the forecast models, and produce site specific forecasts and we can do that and give those communities six to ten hours, which is enough time. >> reporter: but this sophisticated warning system breaks down, as it did in japan, where beachfront areas lie close to the earthquake's epicenter and the tsunami roars ashore within a few minutes. that's why the closeness of the subduction zone to the pacific northwest is so scary. >> probably we're at some physical limits of what a warning system from a technological standpoint can do, and that's where we cross the threshold into education and preparedness. i think the japanese tsunami of march 11, 2011, gave us that
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clue: we need to focus our energies on the local tsunami problem, and what types of structures should be built, and how should they be built. >> reporter: along the west coast, unlike in japan, there are no tsunami shelters, though one city cannon beach, oregon is considering building one that would double as a city hall. local communities have put up signs for tsunami evacuation routes, but they fear gridlock on the roads. the problem is says u.c.'s griggs, the public doesn't stay focused on tsunami preparation for long. legislation gets passed, people get on the alert. they store their gallon of water and their flashlight, and then we have this thing i call collective amnesia. we forget about it. we have this window in which we can respond right after a disaster, and then it's gone again. >> reporter: rebuilding and avoiding dangerous areas may not be in the cards.
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so for coastal residents, the most practical advice when faced with an unexpected tsunami may be to head for the hills, as fast as possible. >> woodruff: finally tonight, the fighting in the west african nation of ivory coast intensified this week. supporters of the internationally-recognized president alassane ouattara, seized control of key cities. margaret warner has our report. >> warner: fighters trying to install the democratically- elected ouattara began besieging the main city of abidjan today, the last major stronghold of his rival. in a televised speech today from his hideout, alessane outtara said his forces were fighting to restore democracy and ensure the people's vote is respected. the struggle between ouattara and incumbent president laurent
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gbagbo has been raging for four months, ever since voters in the former french colony known as cote d'ivoire decisively voted for outtara in the november 28 election. his election was recognized by the u.n., the united states and the european and african unions, but gbagbo refus in a u.n. protected hotel in abidjan, while incumbent gbagbo held his own inauguration ceremony in december and remains in the presidential palace. as negotiations flagged, the struggle turned violent with pro-gbagbo forces attacking pro- outtara civilian neighborhoods and even attacking u.n. peacekeepers. nearly 500 people have died so far and the united nations says as many as one million people have fled their homes, some to nearby countries. but this week the momentum shifted, forces loyal to ouattara have taken 12 cities and towns since monday,
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including the political capital of yamoussoukro and the port of san pedro, before taking the fight to the commercial capital abijidan today. >> yeah, the last week has seen a dramatic deterioration of the security situation. if it weren't for the numbers of those killed i think we'd call this a civil war essentially. >> warner: jennifer cooke is director of the africa program at the center for strategic and international studies. >> laurent gbagbo still >> warner: will gbagbo fight to the death, no matter how bloody it gets? >> i think laurent gbagbo probably would at this point fight to the death. he has no other good options. >> warner: today, assistant secretary of state johnnie carson suggested gbagbo did still have the chance to leave. >> there still is an opportunity for gbagbo to step aside in a fashion that will prevent
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widespread bloodshed and a difficult fight in abidjan for power. we hope he will see and seize this opportunity to step aside peacefully, and encourage his supporters to lay down his arms and not engage in urban conflict. >> warner: so far gbagbo's shown no sign of relenting. so the key to resolving this is the ivorian military. will its leadership stick with gbagbo, or will they abandon him? >> my hope is that we don't get to a point where the full blown civil war. i am also hoping that as the pro-ouattara forces continue to gain momentum that a lot of the military that is supporting laurent gbagbo in the past will pause and ask themselves the
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question whether its worth fighting for a cause that is a lost cause. >> warner: christopher fomunyoh, senior africa associate at the national democratic institute, says threat of prosecution from the international community may sway them. >> i'm also heartened by the that various officers even within the military would have to pause and ask themselves whether they want to be held accountable for gross violations of human rights or for helping aid civil war in a country such as cote divoire. >> warner: today the army's top commander in fact fled his post, seeking refuge in the south african embassy. outtara urged others to follow him. >> ( translated ): to all those who are still hesitating, whether you are generals, superior officers, officers, sub-officers, rank-and-file, there is still time to join your brothers-in-arms. >> warner: the u.n. is trying to increase the pressure, too. yesterday, the u.n. security council unanimously imposed further sanctions on bgagbo's government.
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>> and we're satisfied that all member states are together in one voice and one accord calling for specific sanctions, targeted sanctions against gbagbo. for us, we believe that the die is cast and this will present sufficient pressure on gbagbo to step down. >> warner: but jennifer cooke says international pressure may not be enough. >> unfortunately, for all that good intention and the good action, gbagbo, and if he wishes to stay in power and cares nothing for the future, can do that, can bring the country down with him. he can do that, and there's very little that the international community can do, short of a military intervention, which nobody has really been willing to countenance. >> warner: meanwhile, the ivorian people are suffering. all major banks closed their doors in february, leaving businesses and citizens without access to their money.
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once an economic powerhouse, and a major world cocoa producer, ivory coast was seen as an african success story. but after two decades of unrest, coups and a 2002 civil war, the current crisis, born of hopes for a democratic election, is dealing this small african nation a cruel blow. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day: in libya, a second of moammar qaddafi's top aides defected, as rebels fought for the oil town of brega. in washington, defense secretary gates told congress he was against the u.s. arming rebels and thought it should be up to other nations. and, congressional negotiators kept on working to find common ground on a budget deal for the rest of the year. and to hari sreenivasan for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: margaret gets another perspective on turmoil in the middle east from a visiting official from bahrain. as the world watches japan's nuclear crisis, we look at what's known and unknown about the long-term consequences of a
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radioactive leak. plus, we update a story you may have seen on frontline this week. correspondent lowell bergman reported on the money behind college basketball's march madness. he interviewed ncaa president mark emmert who dismissed the idea of paying student athletes. here's an excerpt: >> you don't see the contradiction that many have pointed out that when we're watching march madness you may have a coach who is being made six figures, maybe seven figures in some cases. everyone is being paid. the athletic director, but the students aren't. the ath let's who are actually performing are not paid. >> no, i don't find that a contradictory at all. quite the contrary, i think what would be utterly unacceptable is to convert students into employees. >> sreenivasan: this an interview he said compensating student athletes through increased scholarship benefits is an idea worth exploring. find a link to frontline on
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our website, also there our interview with lowell bergman. all that at pbs.org. >> woodruff: and again, to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are 11 more.
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>> brown: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and michael gerson, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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